Trees leave mulch to be desired

Holiday icons are recycled at sites around metro area


Scott Lamb and his son Patrick pulled into a Highlands Ranch lot and parked next to a pile of discarded Christmas trees. The mound spanned several parking spaces and filled the surrounding park with a fresh piney aroma. Then they set to work untying a 15-foot tree from their vehicle.

Within a few minutes the pair hoisted the tree in the air and tossed it onto the mix of firs. For years, the family used an artificial tree, but now they get a permit to scout and cut down a live one. They found this year’s near Deckers.

“It’s just fun going out and cutting your own tree,” Scott said.

The father and son pulled away, having closed the Christmas season by recycling their carefully selected tree. As they left, seven other men walked back and forth between the pile and a large woodchipper, dragging a tree in each hand to then stuff into the grinding machine and whittle down to mulch.

Assistant Director of Parks, Trails and Building Maintenance Randy Burkhardt said Christmas tree recycling has been offered by Douglas County longer than he’s been employed there, and he’s approaching his 20-year work anniversary. The county recycles on average 4,300 trees each year.

It’s also a longstanding tradition in Jefferson County, said Carlos Atencio, the county’s road and bridge operations manager. Atencio is rounding out 16 years with the county, which has operated its tree recycling program “for as long as I can remember.”

Christmas tree drop-off sites pepper the Denver metro area as counties and municipalities offer the service starting after Christmas, running through the end of January.

MORE: Holiday lights brighten the night

Employees who oversee the programs said recycling offers a service to the community by giving residents a place to take their tree, and provides them with fresh mulch for their yards. Trees are shredded into mulch, which many places offer for the community to pick up and use.

Recycling programs might even save some taxpayer dollars, Atencio said. When people dump trees at inappropriate sites, “we end up having to go out and dispatch vehicles to pick up those trees anyway,” he said. Jefferson County’s program has mostly eliminated dumping at random properties and roadsides, he said.

Mulch in Douglas County is available now and free to anyone. The rules are simple.

You load. You haul. Take as much as you need.

Curt Cloan, a manager with Douglas County Parks, Trails and Building Grounds, said the county’s four locations are open to anyone, including the handful of commercial Christmas Tree lots that have made use of the program in recent years. Jefferson County is limited in space at the dropoff location and only allows residential use of the program, not commercial.

The Lamb family has recycled live trees in Douglas County for about four years. For Scott, it’s a convenient way to dispose of the family’s tree.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Scott said.

The family hasn’t taken advantage of the free mulch yet — they don’t have a great vehicle for hauling it, he said — although he might change his mind moving forward. They always have a need for mulch, he said, and make regular use of the recycling program.


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